In this week’s issue… Market concentration challenged in Ithaca – Entercom adds in Buffalo – WEEI names new midday team – Toronto’s CFRB makes historic move

By SCOTT FYBUSH

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

CBS3’s Pat Ciarrocchi and 6ABC’s Jim Gardner have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. They join KYW’s Malcolm Poindexter and Larry Kane as the only other broadcast-news anchors in the hall.

Ciarrocchi, who celebrated her 32nd year behind the anchor desk at CBS3, has the distinction of being the first female anchor inducted. The Chester County native, who grew up watching Mort Crim, Vince Leonard and Jessica Savitch, joined the station on March 15, 1982, and credits her longevity to a genuine love of the community and desire to tell its story. She’s come a long way since her radio days, when her first on-air appearance was as a screamer for a Halloween spot.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/celebrities/20140501_Ciarrocchi__Gardner_get_a_Hall_of_an_honor.html#L4otRWVHVSKxmt7w.99

(Another brief note before we launch into the column: Lisa remains in extremely serious condition in a hospital in Indiana, and while I’m able – barely – to get out an abbreviated column this week, there will be a delay in handling subscription inquiries, shipping orders from the Fybush.com Store and possibly in posts here as well. Thanks, once again, for your patience as we try to get through our latest ordeal.)

*There are few markets where ownership is as concentrated as in Ithaca, NEW YORK. As NERW readers know, Saga has used the FCC’s rules on market definitions and HD-fed translators to build a cluster of stations that now includes two AMs, f0ur full-power FMs and nine translators, competing against commercial competition that consists only of one AM/translator combo (Todd Mallinson’s WPIE 1160/107.1) and Cornell-student-run WVBR (93.5).

sagaBack in 2004, a group of local citizens banded together as “FLAIM,” Finger Lakes Alliance for Independent Media, to challenge Saga’s purchase of four stations (WHCU 870, WNYY 1470, WYXL 97.3 and WQNY 107.3) from Eagle II Broadcasting, which had itself overcome a 1996 challenge to its combination of WHCU/WYXL and WNYY (then WTKO)/WQNY. It took four years (and the addition of a fifth full-power signal, Cortland-licensed WIII 99.9 from Citadel) for the FCC to issue a split decision in Saga’s favor, ruling that even though the combination gave Saga well north of 60% of Tompkins County radio revenue, it was legal under the FCC rules then in effect.

Since then, of course, Saga has added all of those translators (which don’t count against market caps), as well as acquiring WFIZ (95.5 Odessa) from ROI Broadcasting last year as a sixth full-power station in the market. As we noted when the deal went through, it was made possible by a shift in the way the Ithaca market is defined: once Saga stopped buying the Ithaca ratings from Arbitron, Arbitron (now Nielsen Audio) stopped rating the market – and once that happened, the WFIZ purchase was consummated under a different set of market definitions that look at contour overlap instead of a ratings market.

Saga made the case that at least on paper, those Ithaca signals overlap with more than 50 other stations from Syracuse, Elmira, Binghamton and elsewhere, and the FCC approved that sale, which included two translators as well as WFIZ itself. (Ironically, ROI itself had once objected to Saga’s market concentration in Ithaca.)

The latest FLAIM petition, against the license renewals of all of Saga’s full-power signals, calls on the Commission to pay closer attention to the specific and unusual nature of the terrain around Ithaca, which puts the city down in a terrain hole that prevents most of those Syracuse/Binghamton/Elmira signals from being even barely audible in town. FLAIM also cites the case of Jeremy Alderson, a journalist and anti-fracking advocate who tried to buy airtime on Saga’s stations to get his message across. The petition says Alderson’s attempt to place a paid show on the Saga stations was denied, leaving him with no option other than buying time on stations in Horseheads and Binghamton that don’t put a significant signal into Ithaca.

The petition (which, we should note, draws heavily on NERW’s own reporting over the years) calls on the FCC to either convene a hearing on whether the grant of Saga’s renewals would be in the public interest, or to grant a short-term renewal while it assesses the “competitive nature of the Ithaca market.” Will the FCC respond? We’ll be watching.

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*Bath-based Family Life Ministries has been one of the most aggressive players in the translator world in western New York, and it’s once again making some moves, this time in and around Buffalo. Right now, listeners in the core of Buffalo hear Family Life Network over 19-watt translator W284AP (104.7), transmitting from Buffalo General Hospital just north of downtown. But W284AP is about to upgrade to 250 watts from the Time Warner Cable tower on Lasalle Avenue, a few miles to the north, and that’s the very same site where FLM’s W207BB (89.3) is about to also upgrade to 250 watts, with a move to 106.1.

Once that new 106.1 signs on, expected to be within a month or so, Family Life won’t need 104.7 anymore – and so it’s turning, once again, to Entercom. FLM and Entercom already have a partnership that allows Family Life to use HD3 signals on Entercom stations in Rochester (WBZA 98.9) and Buffalo (WTSS 102.5), and Entercom is buying a Rochester-market translator from Family Life. Now Entercom is buying W284AP as well, paying $125,000 for the 250-watt signal.

wben-930onlyEntercom plans to use 104.7 to relay its news-talk WBEN (930 Buffalo), returning WBEN’s programming to the FM dial in Buffalo less than a year after dropping the simulcast on WLKK (107.7 Wethersfield Township). (On paper, at least, 104.7 will get the WBEN programming from WTSS 102.5-HD2, which already carries WBEN.)

Meanwhile in Orleans County, northeast of Buffalo, Family Life is applying to move translator W239BX from 95.7 (where it runs 38 watts) to 95.5, where it would run 250 watts.

*It took several tries to win Canadian coordination, but Lockport-area community station WLNF (90.5 Rapids) has finally won a construction permit to move two clicks up the dial to 90.9. The move will boost WLNF from its present 250 watts/93′ DA to 1.8 kW/93′ DA.

*In Binghamton, Jon Scaptura is stepping down after 15 years programming the sports format on WENE (1430 Endicott). That programming role has been something of a labor of love for “Scappy,” who continues as chief engineer of the Clear Channel cluster; WBNW (105.7) PD/afternoon jock Matt Gapske will add programming duties for WENE to his existing role at “Now 105.7.”

*Two long-ago New York City radio people were back in the news again last week: Lee Masters came from WLRS in Louisville to be part of the jock lineup at Bob Pittman’s “All New WNBC” in the fall of 1977, and he did first afternoons and then mornings there before departing later in 1978. Masters went on to work with Pittman at MTV and VH1, and eventually started using his real name, Jarl Mohn, as an executive with Liberty Digital and E! and then at the helm of Southern California Public Radio. Last week, Mohn was tapped as the new CEO of NPR, the first ex-New York DJ to hold that post.

Long before Masters/Mohn had his brief moment of radio stardom in New York, Ben Hoberman was general manager of WABC (770), presiding over the station in the years just before the station burst into prominence as “MusicRadio 77.” In 1960, Hoberman was reassigned to Los Angeles as general manager of KABC (790), and it’s there that he is widely credited as one of the creators of the modern talk radio format. It took a few years to catch on, but with hosts such as Joe Pyne, Michael Jackson, Ray Briem and Bill Ballance, KABC’s “Talkradio” became as potent a force in its market as “Musicradio” was back east. Hoberman came back to New York in 1979 as president of the entire ABC Radio group, and he retired in 1986 when Capital Cities bought the company. Hoberman died May 3 in California, at age 91.

weei937-fm*Radio People on the Move in MASSACHUSETTS: at WEEI-FM (93.7), Entercom is splitting up its midday “Mut and Merloni” team, keeping ex-Sox infielder Lou Merloni on board, reassigning Mike Mutnansky to “new duties” and bringing two new co-hosts on with Merloni. Tim Benz, who’s been part of Clear Channel’s WBGG (970 ESPN) in Pittsburgh, makes the move to Boston for the new “Middays with MFB show,” which will also include former Patriots player Christian Fauria. The new show will make its official debut later in the month, once the Penguins are done with their playoff run and Benz can leave Pittsburgh, reports the Globe.

While we associate him mostly with western Pennsylvania, Benz is actually a Boston native – and, the Globe notes – the son of Dr. Edward Benz, president/CEO of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Greater Media, meanwhile, continues its practice of hiring as many former Clear Channel Boston staffers as possible. It’s bringing Mary Menna on board as general manager of WMJX (106.7) later this month. The newly-created job gives Menna a landing place after her recent exit as market president of the Clear Channel cluster where she spent a quarter of a century.

There’s no surprise at all in the callsign Northfield-Mount Hermon School has picked for its new LPFM: WNMH-LP (106.7 Mount Hermon) picks up where the old WNMH (91.5 Northfield) left off a few years back when the school surrendered that full-power license.

*We’ve had some fun over the years with the unusual quirks of WLRI-LP (92.9 Gap), the LPFM near Lancaster that went on a binge of callsign changes a few years back. It’s seemed at times that the LPFM has had a more active presence in FCC filings and on its websites than on the air; several travelers through the Gap area have reported back that they haven’t heard 92.9 on the air over the years. And indeed, back in February 2013, WLRI told the FCC it was going silent while seeking a new transmitter site. In April 2014, WLRI asked the FCC for special temporary authority to operate from a new location – but last week, the Commission denied the request, noting that STA can’t be granted if the station has already been off the air for more than 12 months, a milestone WLRI apparently hit in February 2014. Is this the end of this unusual LPFM? Stay tuned.

*A NEW JERSEY translator remains deleted, despite a commercial broadcaster’s attempt to resurrect it. The New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority asked the FCC to cancel W276BX (103.1 Pompton Lakes) last year, and it did, but then WGHT (1500 Pompton Lakes) came to the Commission and asked to have the license reinstated so it could buy it from the state agency. While WGHT told the FCC it had an agreement with NJPBA to rebroadcast WGHT on 103.1, the Commission says it can’t force the agency to take back a license and continue operating when it’s already said it wants to shut it down.

(NERW notes that this is truly a shame, since WGHT is one of the finer daytimers out there, providing excellent service to its community despite an AM signal that begins to suffer incoming interference even before the sun has fully set. Here’s hoping the FCC’s AM improvement proceeding will soon yield a window that WGHT can use to reapply for the 103.1 facility.)

Radio People on the Move: WWZY (107.1 Long Branch) midday jock Lauren Crocker is heading to Detroit and middays on “Nash” WDRQ (93.1), starting next Monday. The move reunites her with former WFAS-FM (103.9) colleague Robby Bridges, who now programs WDRQ and will follow her in afternoons there.

cfrb-chum-studio*One of CANADA‘s oldest radio studios has been vacated. CFRB (1010) moved in at 2 St. Clair Street West, on the corner of Yonge Street, back in the 1960s – and as of Saturday, it and sister station CKFM (Virgin 99.9) have relocated to the Bell Media complex in the former CityTV building at 299 Queen Street West, now home to CHUM-FM (104.5) and CHUM (TSN Radio 1050), as well as to CFXJ (Flow 93.5).

Flow, along with CFRB/CKFM’s former Astral sister station CHBM (Boom 97.3), are now in the hands of Newcap, and we’ve heard (but not yet confirmed) that Flow will join Boom at the St. Clair and Yonge facility eventually. (Sadly, we never got to tour the St. Clair studios for our Site of the Week feature…)

*Across Lake Ontario, CFLZ (101.1 Fort Erie) is applying for a license amendment that will make official what Vista Broadcasting did last fall: turning the station into a simulcast of nearby CJED (105.1 Niagara Falls).

Vista pulled the plug on each station’s separate programming – top-40 “Z101” and variety hits “Ed 105.1” – not long after taking them over as part of its purchase of Halliburton Broadcasting last year, and it tells the CRTC it had no choice: “These stations were in disrepair, had virtually no presence in the market and were not operating on a financially sustainable basis,”it says. By adjusting both stations’ license terms to allow for the simulcast (as top-40 “2Day FM”), Vista says it can stabilize the finances enough to allow for separate programming to resume on CFLZ by the time the current license term expires in 2019.

*Yet another CBC/Radio-Canada AM facility is headed for the exits: 10-kilowatt CBGA-1 (540) in Grande Anse, New Brunswick (serving New Carlisle, Quebec) will be deleted if the CRTC approves an application for a new Radio-Canada FM transmitter in Matapedia, Quebec. The new FM signal would run 268 watts/-38.4m on 101.7.

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From the NERW Archives

Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten and – where available – fifteen years ago this week, or thereabouts.

Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.

One Year Ago: May 13, 2013

*Seven years after an upstate NEW YORK state college entered the public radio business, it has abruptly shut down its station, leaving behind plenty of questions about a newly open space on the dial. wuowSUNY Oneonta put WUOW-LP (104.7) on the air in 2007 to help provide emergency communications in town in the wake of devastating flooding in the region, and just last year it returned the LPFM license and signed on a new full-power outlet, WUOW (88.5 Milford), along with an Oneonta translator, W217BY (91.3), for which it paid $12,500. Even though that move had already been planned and paid for, it appears that the Oneonta campus had by then already decided to pull the plug on its venture into public radio. From an initial staff of three (plus a part-timer), WUOW was down to just one staffer – and on Thursday, that staffer, SUNY Oneonta communications lecturer Gary Wickham, had the sad duty of signing the station off. With a mixture of AAA music and some local talk, WUOW had competed against relays of two larger public stations, Binghamton”s WSKG (via WSQC 91.7 Oneonta) and Albany”s WAMC (via two translators in the area). Will either of them (or someone else) end up with the WUOW licenses? For now, SUNY isn”t saying whether it still plans to sell the licenses, though it had offered them for sale back in 2011. (In the meantime, WSKG is finding other ways to expand in Otsego County: it”s paying Bud Williamson $20,000 for translator W290CI on 105.9 in Cooperstown.) *We still think of Bruce Mittman primarily as a Massachusetts broadcaster, but he”s becoming a bigger name in upstate New York radio. Last week, Mittman”s Community Broadcasters (which he owns along with Jim Leven) filed a $3.6 million deal to buy Backyard Broadcasting”s stations in the Elmira/Corning and Olean markets. In Elmira, Community picks up a cluster of three FMs and two AMs: top-40 “Wink 106″ WNKI (106.1 Corning), the only class B signal in the core of the market, along with country “Big Pig” WPGI (100.9 Horseheads) and classic rock “Wingz” WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), plus talker WWLZ (820 Horseheads) and WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen), which relays WNGZ when it”s not carrying auto racing on the weekends. In Olean, Community picks up market-leading country giant WPIG (95.7) and oldies WHDL (1450).Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-5132013-oneonta-loses-a-radio-voice/

*Seven years after an upstate NEW YORK state college entered the public radio business, it has abruptly shut down its station, leaving behind plenty of questions about a newly open space on the dial.

wuowSUNY Oneonta put WUOW-LP (104.7) on the air in 2007 to help provide emergency communications in town in the wake of devastating flooding in the region, and just last year it returned the LPFM license and signed on a new full-power outlet, WUOW (88.5 Milford), along with an Oneonta translator, W217BY (91.3), for which it paid $12,500.

Even though that move had already been planned and paid for, it appears that the Oneonta campus had by then already decided to pull the plug on its venture into public radio. From an initial staff of three (plus a part-timer), WUOW was down to just one staffer – and on Thursday, that staffer, SUNY Oneonta communications lecturer Gary Wickham, had the sad duty of signing the station off.

With a mixture of AAA music and some local talk, WUOW had competed against relays of two larger public stations, Binghamton”s WSKG (via WSQC 91.7 Oneonta) and Albany”s WAMC (via two translators in the area). Will either of them (or someone else) end up with the WUOW licenses? For now, SUNY isn”t saying whether it still plans to sell the licenses, though it had offered them for sale back in 2011.

*We still think of Bruce Mittman primarily as a Massachusetts broadcaster, but he”s becoming a bigger name in upstate New York radio. Last week, Mittman”s Community Broadcasters (which he owns along with Jim Leven) filed a $3.6 million deal to buy Backyard Broadcasting”s stations in the Elmira/Corning and Olean markets. In Elmira, Community picks up a cluster of three FMs and two AMs: top-40 “Wink 106” WNKI (106.1 Corning), the only class B signal in the core of the market, along with country “Big Pig” WPGI (100.9 Horseheads) and classic rock “Wingz” WNGZ (104.9 Montour Falls), plus talker WWLZ (820 Horseheads) and WRCE (1490 Watkins Glen), which relays WNGZ when it”s not carrying auto racing on the weekends. In Olean, Community picks up market-leading country giant WPIG (95.7) and oldies WHDL (1450).

*Two Pittsburgh-market AM stations are changing owners for remarkably low prices. All-news KQV (1410) will apparently be keeping its format when the heirs of the late minority owner Robert Dickey Sr. buy majority control of the station from Richard Mellon Scaife. Back in 1982, Scaife and the elder Dickey paid just under $2 million to buy KQV from Taft, with Scaife taking 70% of licensee Calvary Inc. and Dickey taking 20%. After Dickey”s death in late 2011, his children Robert Dickey Jr. and Cheryl Scott inherited his shares, and their company, 22 Min LLC (named, we presume, for the “give us 22 minutes, we”ll give you the world” all-news slogan), is paying $200,000 for Scaife”s interest in KQV, which appears to value the entire station at under $300,000.

Down the road in Pittsburgh”s eastern suburbs, the bankrupt Business Talk Radio Network has sold WLFP (1550 Reserve Township) to a new group called AM Guys LLC, owned by Ed DeHart and Stephen Zelenko. They”re paying just $14,515 for the 1000-watt daytimer, a steep discount from the $225,000 BTRN spent to buy then-WURP from Inner City Broadcasting six years ago.

*Think that”s not a dramatic enough example of the way station values have shifted in recent years? Consider, then, that a 490-watt college station in the much smaller Williamsport market is changing hands for $125,000. That”s WPTC (88.1), and it will survive as a campus/community voice after nearly being closed down when its owner, Pennsylvania College of Technology, dropped the Mass Media/Communications program that had staffed WPTC with student managers and air talent. Instead of shutting down WPTC, the newly-formed Williamsport Lycoming Broadcast Foundation will take over the license. The foundation”s president, Todd Bartley, is also the general manager of the local ESPN affiliate, WLYC (1050), and the foundation”s address is WLYC”s address, too.

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011. In its year and a half on the air, that newscast suffered from two big drawbacks: first, it was never truly “local,” emanating from the centralized newsroom at INN (Independent News Network) in Davenport, Iowa, where an Iowa-based anchor introduced stories from three reporters based in New Hampshire; second, it attempted to compete not only against the very established Manchester-based WMUR (Channel 9), which offers its own 10 PM show on its 9.2 MeTV subchannel, but also against the big newsrooms to the south in Boston. (And even here, the advantage went very much to WMUR, which can draw on the considerable resources of Hearst sister station WCVB in Boston.) The Binnie group promised early on that the Iowa-based production would be only temporary while it worked to build a full-fledged news operation in New Hampshire, and as recently as February Binnie told the Concord Monitor that he was planning to “double his reporting staff” and expand the evening newscast to an hour. But we”re hearing that concerns with the quality of the Iowa-based production led WBIN to pull out of the deal with INN, abruptly replacing the 10 PM newscast with the syndicated “OMG! Insider.” WBIN WBIN”s inaugural newscast, 2011 Will news come back to WBIN? The station has retained one of the three local reporters on its staff, and weatherman Al Kaprielian is still on staff as well, doing hourly weather updates from afternoon into prime time (the former INN-produced newscast used an Iowa-based forecaster instead) – but the most that Binnie VP Periklis Karoutas would tell the Monitor is that Binnie “is doing news and will continue to do so.” As for some of the bigger plans Binnie”s been talking about for his fast-growing radio/TV group, including a statewide live morning news show, their failure to materialize just yet might well be taken as another sign that even for an owner with the considerable resources of a business magnate like Bill Binnie, getting into broadcasting in a big way is still harder than it looks.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

*Conventional wisdom says we”re living right now in a time of transformative media change, as established news sources come under siege from newer, more nimble ventures. wbin-smIn the world of local TV news, though, “new” doesn”t automatically mean “success” – especially in markets where a single player might have a six-decade head start on a newcomer. Markets such as, say, NEW HAMPSHIRE, which is where we start this week”s column with the news that Bill Binnie”s WBIN (Channel 50) has pulled the plug, for now, on the 10 PM local newscast that launched back in the fall of 2011.Read more at: http://www.fybush.com/nerw-20130506/

Five Years Ago: May 11, 2009

There are few relationships as fraught with tension right now as those between broadcasters and bankers. As station values have dropped in recent months, we’ve heard from plenty of broadcasters who’d like to be station buyers, not to mention station brokers who’d very much like to complete sales, only to be thwarted by an almost complete freeze on lending for station purchases. Ask the bankers and venture capitalists, of course, and they’ll tell you that radio is just too volatile and risky a business to be pouring money into right now…especially with station values continuing to slump. It’s not just would-be buyers affected by the credit crunch – just ask any station owner facing a big credit line that’s coming due.

Our latest example is one of the region’s largest station groups: Nassau Broadcasting, which has been negotiating with its biggest lenders, led by Goldman Sachs, ever since its credit came due last September just as the market began its tumble. The immediate impact on Nassau was limited – the company backed out of LMA-to-purchase deals for WFKB in the Reading, PA market and for a station in Maryland – but the long-term problems were potentially severe. Last week, Nassau CEO Lou Mercatanti reached a deal with Goldman that will keep the company alive, but at the expense of a significant loss of control of the company, not to mention the sale of stations in NEW HAMPSHIRE and MAINE. Here’s how it plays out: the Goldman-led lender group will trade two-thirds of Nassau’s outstanding debt for an 85% equity interest in the company, with Goldman taking a seat on the Nassau board of directors. That constitutes a change of control of Nassau, as far as the FCC is concerned – and that means Nassau gives up its grandfathered status in Concord and Portland, where its clusters exceed current market caps.

In Concord and the Lakes Region, Nassau will put classic hits “Frank” WNNH (99.1 Henniker) and classic rock “Hawk” WWHQ (101.5 Meredith) in a divestiture trust pending a sale, while in Portland, it’s “Bone” rock simulcast WHXR (106.7 North Windham) that goes into the trust. Meanwhile, Nassau will restructure Boston-market WCRB (99.5 Lowell) and its Cape Cod cluster into separate companies to avoid ownership-attribution issues stemming from lenders’ interests in other broadcasters in those markets. In a memo to Nassau employees, Mercatanti promised that “there are no other changes occurring in connection with this transaction that will impact the operations of the Company,” vowing that he and the rest of Nassau’s management team will remain in place.

Ten Years Ago: May 11, 2004

More than a decade after its construction was halted 220 feet short of its target height, the tower of WFUV (90.7 New York) will soon be dismantled, ending the nastiest battle over a radio tower in the history of NEW YORK and perhaps the nation. The New York Daily News reports that the new president of Fordham University, WFUV’s owner, has reached a settlement with the New York Botanical Garden that will find WFUV moving a mile and a half to a new tower to be built atop a Gun Hill Road apartment building owned by the Montefiore Medical Center.

Over in Buffalo, WGR (550) began simulcasting its sports talk over WNSA (107.7 Wethersfield Township), its former rival, in the middle of last week. We still hear that the simulcast is only temporary and that a music format is on the way at 107.7. Meanwhile, former WNSA talk hosts Howard Simon and Jim Brinson returned to the airwaves at Empire Sports Network, buying time from the struggling network in Simon’s former “Simon-cast” afternoon time slot.

Renda Broadcasting is adding another signal in PENNSYLVANIA, paying $900,000 to buy WLCY (106.3 Blairsville) from Longo Media Group. “Lucky 106” will join WDAD (1450 Indiana), WQMU (92.5 Indiana) and WCCS (1160 Homer City) in Renda’s Indiana cluster.

RHODE ISLAND’s 990 signal will soon be a sister to WXCT: Davidson Media Group, which is buying WXCT from ADD Media, is paying $2.6 million to acquire WALE (990 Greenville) from Cumbre Communications, which couldn’t make a go of the signal. We listened to WALE for a bit while driving around Providence this past weekend, and whatever it’s doing, it’s doing it without any legal IDs… (2009 update: It was still doing it without legal IDs when we visited Providence a couple of months ago.)

Fifteen Years Ago: May 7, 1999

The “rhythmic oldies” format has claimed a big CONNECTICUT convert this week — but this time, Chancellor Media has nothing to do with it. CBS’s WZMX (93.7 Hartford) made the switch at 10 o’clock Thursday morning, putting morning man Sebastian out on the street (literally so — NERW hears his car was broken and he had to walk home) and taking on the moniker “Z-93.7, Dancin’ Oldies.” John Robbins is the new PD at the station. Across town, Buckley’s more traditional oldies station, WDRC-FM (102.9 Hartford), is also trying to attract the same audience by positioning itself as “Good Times, Hot Oldies.”

Charles River Broadcasting is buying another MASSACHUSETTS radio station. The owner of WCRB (102.5 Waltham) and WFCC (107.5 Chatham) is buying WKPE-FM (104.7 Orleans) on Cape Cod from David Roth’s Gramcam. Roth donated the former WKPE(AM) to UMass/Boston a few months ago. WKPE-FM will be the only Charles River station with a format other than classical music. No word yet on whether there will be operational consolidations between WKPE-FM and WFCC; given that WFCC’s programming already originates from WCRB’s Waltham studio, it would seem logical to move WFCC’s sales staff in with WKPE at the “Radio Circle” facility just off US 6.

Boston University is selling the TV stations it bought from the Christian Science Monitor six years ago, and the buyer is none other than DP Media, owned by Lowell Paxson’s son Devon. The price tag for WABU-TV (Channel 68 Boston), WNBU-TV (Channel 21 Concord NH), and WZBU (Channel 58 Vineyard Haven) is estimated at $40 million. Once the deal closes, WABU and its satellites will become PaxTV affiliates, replacing WBPX-TV (Channel 46) in Norwell. As for WABU’s local programming and its 70 employees? Most are likely to lose their jobs as the station becomes the typical all-network Pax operation.

WAAF (107.3 Worcester) is moving even farther away from its city of license. A decade after leaving the downtown digs nicknamed the “Cocaine Realty Building,” WAAF is abandoning its office-park facility in Westborough to move into the former WBMX studios at 116 Huntington Ave. in Boston, where sister stations WRKO, WEEI, and WQSX are located. WAAF general manager Bruce Mittman tells the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that it doesn’t make sense to pay rent on two facilities, and with the open space where WBMX used to be (that station is now in the old WBOS/WSJZ Soldiers Field Rd. studios), the move was the logical thing to do. WWTM (1440) and a satellite sales office will relocate somewhere in the Worcester area within a few months. Speaking of Worcester, we heard from WWFX (100.1 Southbridge) GM Craig Della Riva, who wrote in to let us know “the Fox” is more “classic hits” than classic rock.

Aurora Communications is still buying in NEW YORK. Frank Osborn’s new group, which bought WEBE/WICC in Connecticut last week, also plunked down $20 million to pick up WFAS AM-FM (1230/103.9) in White Plains and WZZN (106.3) in Mount Kisco late last week. Osborn’s partner Frank Washington had been managing those stations.

It must be nice to be able to shuffle radio station formats as easily as a deck of cards — at least, that’s the only conclusion we can draw from the latest changes at Jacor in Rochester, or, more correctly, Clear Channel in Rochester (with the closing of this huge deal this week). Here’s the latest on the little class A FMs that seem to have changed calls and format almost every month since Jacor took them over in early 1998: The “Kiss 107” CHR format, just starting to make a ratings dent, disappeared from 107.3 (WMAX-FM “South Bristol Township”) Thursday afternoon and was replaced with a loop advising listeners to retune their radios to 106.7. That would be WKGS Irondequoit, which dropped its soft AC “Sunny 106” format last December (after just 10 months!) to begin simulcasting “Kiss.” The simulcast almost made sense — the 106.7 signal is on an apartment building at the north end of the market and serves Monroe County and nowhere else (since it’s rather short-spaced to WHCD 106.9 Auburn), while the 107.3 is on a short tower in Bloomfield, 20 miles south of Rochester, and does much better in the outlying counties to the south than in the city itself. What’s more, the 107.3 will eventually be sacrificed to the top of Bristol Mountain, where it won’t really reach Rochester at all. (This move preserves the fiction of local service to “South Bristol Township” once Jacor’s WNVE on 95.1 moves its big class B signal from Bristol Mountain down to Baker Hill, using 107.3’s old city of license of Honeoye Falls, but becoming a real Rochester class B in the process.)

Confused yet? We’re just getting started…because when the loop on 107.3 ended at 5 o’clock Friday night, what popped up was a new country station. “The Big Cow 107.3” promised its listeners two solid hours of Shania Twain, which it delivered — by repeating the same four songs over and over. But anyone anticipating real competition for the market’s only country station (Entercom’s WBEE-FM) was disappointed by what happened two hours later, when WMAX-FM became “Jammin’ Oldies 107.3,” presumably taking on another Entercom station, oldies WBBF 98.9. Real format? Weekend stunt? Sounds like the former…but with these guys, you never know.

As for the listeners, they’re probably getting pretty confused by now. Since last February, these 106.7 and 107.3 outlets have delivered dance-CHR (on 107.3 as “Jam’n,” February-December 1998), soft AC (on 106.7 as “Sunny,” February-December 1998, later shuffled off to the Canandaigua 102.3), mainstream CHR, and now rhythmic oldies — and all without people. Yep, it’s all jockless, personality-free, straight-outta-Covington, Kentucky formula programming. And the shame of it is, 106.7 used to be a creative AAA (as WMAX-FM) owned by a small regional cable company, with real people doing real radio for a real audience. 107.3 was never as local (in its original incarnation as smooth jazz WRCD), but at least it didn’t flip formats and calls every six months.

11 COMMENTS

  1. We will keep Lisa in our prayers, Scott. Thank you for trying to keep everything going. It must be very difficult juggling a family illness & keeping your other commitments going. Hope everything turns out okay for both of you.

    Mike Putnam

  2. God Bless you and Lisa. May he touch her with healing. And may he make your emotional burden lighter.
    Dave Macaulay

  3. Scott,
    Your amazing and I know your strength will be the Godsend to Lisa.
    All caring wishes and positive thoughts to your family. Clark

  4. Keeping you and Lisa in thoughts and prayers. May everything quickly turn out well.

    Edward Ogden

  5. Ruth & I believe in miracles and the power of God. We’re praying and believing for a complete restoration for Lisa in Jesus mighty powerful name.

    Fred & Ruth Koehler

  6. You’ve had some challenges to deal with, Scott. Best wishes to you and Lisa- and I hope there’s strength in knowing you’ve got friends who care.

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